Is my factory warranty void if I don't service my car at the dealership?

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Have you ever heard the myth that you have to service your car at the dealership so you don't void the warranty?

Paint yourself this picture: You buy or lease your new car from a dealership, and they tell you, "Make sure you bring it back to us for regular maintenance so you don't void your warranty." Naturally, you start to wonder whether having your car serviced at an independent repair facility will actually void your factory warranty and cause further problems down the road. It's a valid question, and one many Americans don't exactly know how to answer.

According to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), the nation's consumer protection agency, the answer is no. In fact, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act prohibits dealers from refusing to honor your warranty if someone else performs the repairs.

This law, enacted in 1975, was created to stop manufacturers, such as dealerships, from confusing customers with misleading disclaimers and information. As a result, there are now steps you can take to ensure your warranty is both protected and implemented correctly.

Read it, and be aware of when it expires.

While dealerships cannot prohibit you from either doing routine work yourself or hiring an independent facility, the manufacturer or dealer can, in some cases, require their customers to use certain facilities if they offer services free of charge under the warranty. This is one of the many fine-print stipulations that makes reading your warranty essential.

When reading the warranty, you'll also want to keep an eye out for dates detailing when these types of services - and the warranty itself - expire. Part of having a car is making sure it runs as smoothly as possible, so if something doesn't feel right, you should make sure to get it checked while you're still covered. How will you know when that is without taking a few minutes to read everything over?

Get regular maintenance and care.

Take your vehicle to a reputable mechanic who performs high-quality work. Careless workmanship can cause damages that wind up voiding your warranty. For example, an improperly installed belt can damage the engine, and an issue like this may void the engine's warranty. If this were to happen, the factory would have to prove that the belt was installed improperly before voiding your warranty, and yes, this can sometimes be tricky. Still, it's best not to put yourself in similar situations by making sure your car is getting good, quality care.

A smart way to do this is by finding a shop with an established customer base and solid online reviews. Sometimes, the best way to know what kind of work a mechanic will do is by simply asking their existing customers. Foreign Affairs Auto in West Palm Beach has been caring for European Automobiles since 1982. You can check out what customers are saying about them on their reviews page.

Know that third-party repairs carry warranties, too.

Some European-make service and repair shops will only warranty their work for three-six months. This, however, isn't the case for all shops, including Foreign Affairs Auto. There, every part used and each problem corrected is guaranteed for 24 months, or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. Foreign Affairs' owner Jonathan Ortiz says, "This promise is among the best in the business, and it is a testament to our shop's confidence in the work we provide."

Know how expensive it can be to fix a problem at your dealership.

If you're still unsure as to whether you should take your vehicle to the dealership or independent shop, just remember that dealerships can be very expensive. Foreign Affairs Auto's technicians are factory-certified from every major European auto manufacturer, and they can do the same repairs and maintenance for up to 60 percent less than what you would be paying at a dealership.

Worried that taking your vehicle to a third-party shop will void your factory warranty? Fear not, because at Foreign Affairs Auto, every step is taken to make sure your car will be repaired using OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts and that your factory warranty will stay intact. You can reach them at (561) 475-4145 or get directions here.